The woman who lost her husband and two children in a horrific car crash in Co Donegal has pleaded with mourners to hug their loved ones and tell them how much they love them.
Mourners outside St Pius X Church in the seaside town of Moville wiped tears from their faces as Geraldine Mullan said a final farewell to her family.
All three died when the family’s car plunged into Lough Foyle at Quigley’s Point on Thursday evening last on the way home from a family day out.
Geraldine managed to escape from the car but husband John, 49, and children Tomas, 14 and Amelia, 6 perished.
A composed Mrs Mullan paid tribute to all those who had comforted her in recent days but ultimately paid tribute to the three most important people in her life – her late family.
She told mourners “Please go home and hug your kids and loved ones. Give them the tightest hug and sweetest kiss. Tell your loved ones you love them and don’t be afraid to tell them. My darling husband told me time and time again. It was the first thing I heard in the morning and the last thing I heard at night.”
“I have no one to tell ‘I love you to’ anymore because the three most important people in my life are gone. Cherish each day as if it were your last.”
Mrs Mullan recalled the moments when her life changed forever but stressed that there was no way that John could be blamed for the tragedy.
She said “Everything was against us. There was a high tide, the inclement weather from Storm Ellen the night before, the roadworks and the slippery road conditions.
“Anyone that knows John knows you couldn’t get a safer driver. It wasn’t from speed or no reckless driving.
“As Fr Pat said, there are no words and there are no answers, but I can picture it second by second. It’s true what they say, in a second your live changes completely. On Thursday, August 20th, at half nine, my life was irrevocably changed for the worst.
“We landed upside down in the water and my dear husband could not get out and the injuries he sustained unfortunately pinned him in.”
She also revealed how her son had been the perfect big brother to sister Amelia – even in their final moments.
“Everyone knew Tomás was the perfect big brother and he was the best big brother until the end because when they found him, Amelia was in Tomás’ arms. That’s where she loved to be.
“Thanks for minding Amelia, right up to the end,” she said, looking down on his coffin. “And my dearest John, thank you for being with them, looking after our two rascals. My sorrow and suffering will be held together by your love and strength and guidance, and on the dark days, weeks and months ahead I know I will get a sign or a gentle nudge and I know that all three of you will be looking after me.”
She paid a special tribute to her loving husband whom she described as her best friend.
She said he would’ve been 50 in two weeks time. It was always his dream to go to Cape Canaveral in America, as he loved space travel, but due to Covid they couldn’t go.
“Instead, we had 50 little presents hidden all around the house for him. Now, I have no one to give those presents to, but I will go out to Ballybrack (cemetery) and sing him a happy birthday.”
She paid tribute to the emergencies services, including Kevin Barr of the RNLI lifeboat.
“He had a hard job of getting me out of the water and I screamed at him ‘would you let me go so I can be with them’. I was left behind for a reason, but I don’t know what that reason was.”
She said she will continue helping out with the local Moville GAA club every Saturday morning, even though she has no kids.
Earlier the funeral cortege carrying the three coffins made the short journey from the Mullan family home less than a mile away in glistening sunshine.
The nearby Lough Foyle, which hugs the seaside town, was calm and glass-like, a huge contrast to just a few short days ago when it claimed the lives of the father and two children.
Mrs Mullan, 45, supported by two friends, led the funeral cortege as it made its way to the church, the heartbroken mother and wife singing loudly the names of her husband and children.
Hundreds of mourners waited at the mouth of the church while the three coffins carrying John, Tomas and Amelia were taken into the church, with Mrs Mullan helping to escort each coffin into the church.
Among those showing their support for the heartbroken family were staff from Letterkenny University Hospital where Geraldine worked as a cancer nurse.
Members of Moville GAA club, Moville Sea Scouts, Moville Community College and the local schools also formed a guard of honour at the church.
Parish priest Fr Pat O’Hagan told Geraldine in his homily that if love could take away her pain then she would be pain-free.
Fr Pat O’Hagan, parish priest of Moville, addressed just 50 mourners who were allowed into St Pius X Parish Church because of Covid regulations.
However, many thousands more stood outside or watched a live-streaming of the heart-wrenching mass.
Fr O’Hagan told Mrs Mullan “There’s been an outpouring of love especially for you, Geraldine, in your loss.
“If support, sympathy and love could take away your pain, you’d be pain-free.
“If they could take all this away, we wouldn’t need to be here this morning.
“But they can’t. And we find ourselves here, doing the last thing we’d want to do, if only we could choose.
“And we’re here, in this church, offering Mass for John, Tomás and Amelia. And we’re praying with and for Geraldine and all those who feel some of her pain.”
He said the town and community had been overwhelmed with the events of last Thursday and left people reeling with a sense of shock and disbelief.
He said there had been a “universal” outpouring of support for Geraldine as well as the Mullan and Connaughton families with messages of support from England, Italy, Nigeria, Brazil and Australia.
Before the mass started, Geraldine’s father Martin Connuaghton thanked the emergency services on the night and also to the people of Moville for comforting Geraldine in recent days.
He paid a special tribute to local man Conor McDaid who was first on the scene when he noticed the lights of the Mullan car going off the road.
He was described as a “guardian angel” who helped to rescue Geraldine from the waters of Lough Foyle.
Tributes were then paid to Amelia, Tomas and John by members of both families.
Amelia was described as a “wee rascal” and a “wee lady” who lit up rooms with her bubbly personality.
Tomas was described as a quiet, young gentleman who loved music and who always looked after his little sister and was her knight in shining armour.
Dad John was described as a gentleman who lived most of his life in Moville and was a real ‘homebird’ who would do anything for anyone.
Among the gifts brought to the altar included a ‘Our Generation’ doll and pink CD player for Amelia, an accordion and Harry Potter book for Tomas as well as a Manchester Utd scarf, a family photo and a guitar for John.
Mourners wiping away tear were told that the guitar was a birthday present which Geraldine, Tomas and Amelia had planned to give John for his 50th birthday in September.
It was one of fifty presents which the loving family had planned to give their dad and husband on his special day.
Among the music played was a piece of accordion music recorded by Tomas as part of his homework during lockdown.
In his homily to those gathered both inside and outside, Fr O’Hagan said the readings of the mass would hopefully make some sense of the “horrendous tragedy.”
He added “We will never forget John, Tomás and Amelia – who they were and what they meant to those of us who were privileged and blessed to know them.
“We will never forget the events of Thursday night. We will never make sense of them by ourselves. We will never move forward by ourselves.”
Fr O’Hagan remembered the family and how they regularly worshipped at mass in this very church.
“John, Tomás and Amelia – along with Geraldine – worshipped regularly at Mass here in this church where we’re gathered this morning.
“For probably four years Tomás was an altar server here – always turned up when he was on rota, quiet and unassuming, but diligent, punctual, ready and willing to do whatever was asked or expected of him. When he left Scoil Eoghain and moved to Moville Community College, he left his altar serving days behind him, and joined his mum and dad and his little sister in the seat where they always sat.
“Amelia was a typical girl of her age, sometimes quiet, sometimes (more times) bubbly, always enjoying whatever she was doing. Getting on well in school, making friends, doing the things little girls do, wanting all the pink things little girls want.
“John met and fell in love with Geraldine when she was nursing his late mother, Philomena, whose 10th anniversary was last Thursday, a date forever etched in the minds and memories of the Mullan family, and now the Connaughton family too.
“He and Geraldine became devoted not only to each other as husband and wife and as best friends, but to their children, as good, honest, hardworking parents who were bringing their children up and teaching them by their own good example to be people of faith.”
He said the Mullan and Connaughton families are families of faith, coming from places of faith, homes of faith and prayer.
After the funeral mass, the three coffins carrying John, Tomas and Amelia were brought to the nearby Ballybrack Cemetary in Greencastle for burial.